About the Author: Joshua Baker is the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.
The 2010 Libyan Space Camp experience officially blasted off on July 16, when 24 Libyan students, three members of Al Shababiya Television, and one representative of the General People's Committee for Education and Scientific Research boarded a plane for the U.S. National Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
From July 16-July 25, 24 Libyan students, aged 14-18, took part in the experience of their lives. The students attended Space Camp not to study aeronautics and space from a textbook, but rather to train as young astronauts. For more than a week, they donned official National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Flight Suits and worked shoulder-to-shoulder with their American counterparts in the ultimate display of people-to-people diplomacy.
Presented with challenges such as damaged fuselages, miscalibrated steering mechanisms, and punctured air filtration systems, these 24 students applied advanced principles of physics, chemistry, and mathematics to solve some of the same problems experienced by American astronauts in the International Space Station and the famous Apollo 13 mission.
Now in its second year, the Libyan Space Camp program developed as a result of a unique relationship among NASA, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, and the Libyan General People's Council for Education and Scientific Research, and was launched as part of the U.S.-Libya agreement on science and technology, which was signed in January 2008. The Libyan Space Camp Program grew to include a diverse group of Libya's most talented math and science students from all corners of the country.
A major impetus for the 2010 Libyan Space Camp program also came from President Obama's Cairo Initiative and the Presidential Science Envoy Program. In April, 2010, former Director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Elias Zerhouni visited Libya and highlighted the Libyan Space Camp program as evidence of U.S. commitment to partnering with Libya in education, science, and technology.
The Libyan Space Campers represent only the second group from the Middle East and first from North Africa to participate in the Advanced Space Camp.
This year's program was a true partnership between the American and Libyan governments and was made possible thanks to the generous financial support of Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Coca-Cola, and ConocoPhillips.